This weekend, the Widget and I watched the ‘Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.’ cartoon, during which she explained to me who the various Hulks were and what their respective deals were. (“That’s Red. He’s just a jerk.”) But, as the action heated up, and the heroes jetted off into space, I realized just what the threat they were about to confront was, and what it meant, suddenly interrupting her with a fearful “Holy crap… It’s EGO.”
The explanation of what that meant took a while, but having done it once, I’m not averse to repeating a good story… Your Major Spoilers (retro) review awaits!
Creative madness of Kirby.
What a concept!
Short and anti-climactic.
Previously in Thor: After getting a big too big for his britches, Thor was banished to Earth by All-Father Odin to teach him a bit of humility. It isn’t really clear how long he spent trapped in the mortal form of Doctor Donald Blake, but an invasion by the Stone Men from Saturn (actually not from Saturn at all, we eventually discovered) led to Blake finding the legendary hammer, Mjolnir. Now, he switches back and forth from man to Norse deity by stamping his cane on the ground, and has fought mostly against various jerks and shmendriks who are massively over-powered by his might. That is no longer the case as, having traveled into space to the remote Black Galaxy, where he has finally confronted a menace that dwarfs even his Asgardian power… the living planet known as Ego.
When Widget asked me about the origin of Ego, The Living Planet, my explanation started with, “There once was a man named Jack Kirby, and he was awesome.” This two-page spread of Ego’s surface is pretty much the visual representation of that sentence. The alien landscape is such that even an immortal of Asgard and a Rigellian Recorder (a machine-being who has spent centuries cataloguing the wonders of the universe) stand in awe of that which is Ego. Before they can fully wrap their brains around the madness before them, their “host” steps in to open the lines of communication…
You have to appreciate the subtlety that Vinnie Colletta’s inks add to Kirby’s powerful pencils, especially in the treatment of Thor’s golden locks. Ego creates a human-sized avatar with which he addresses Thor, the proceeds to shake even Thor’s understanding of the universe by creating horses from the matter of his planetary shell. Riding across the surface of the living planet, Thor and the Recorder are brought to a castle (which, like their mounts, Ego has created from Thor’s own memories) where Ego presents the God of Thunder with a challenge…
His name proves quite fitting, as Ego slaps down Thor like that time Stephen got in the slap-fight with the dwarf who wrestled in a nun’s costume. (This story may or may not be true.) Using Thor’s own form as a template, he creates first one, then an ARMY of humanoid creatures, Anti-Bodes with which he will invade and subjugate the world outside The Black Galaxy. (My uncle used to drive one of those.)
Faced with the prospect of a massive, hyper-intelligent creature crushing freedom beneath it’s… um… continents, Thor faces down the nigh-endless forces mano-a-meteroid. For perhaps the first time in centuries, the Thunder God unleashes the full scope of his power against the hordes of anti-bodies…
Finally beaten at his own game, Ego skulks back into his pocket universe in defeat, leaving behind only the memory of a great adventure for Thor and the vague worry that his face is modeled on someone real. (Perhaps Stan Lee himself?) This issue is an odd one, even by the standards of Silver Age Marvel, and it’s a wild ride throughout (albeit one with a particularly abrupt ending), showcasing Kirby’s wild visuals, with one of Colletta’s more consistent inking jobs. (Vinnie is a favorite of mine, but his talents are sometimes a bone of contention among fans of Silver Age Marvel.) Thor #133 is a reminder of the kind of world-changing wacky ideas that made Marvel famous, debuting one of the maddest of the cosmic pantheon and earning a solid 4 out of 5 stars overall (adjusted for the exchange rate from the currency of the Black Galaxy.)
As my child informed me at the end of the cartoon Ego battle, “Ego is creepy and awesome, but I’m kind of afraid of that Jack Kirby guy’s brain.”